FaceTime WasteTime?

FaceTime WasteTime?

Summary: FaceTime users could potentially suck up valuable network bandwidth. But only if the technology is worth using.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Telcos
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With the germ of an idea for a piece floating around in my head for a discussion of the potential impact of FaceTime users on corporate network bandwidth I made a few phone calls this morning to some friends in the network management business.  When I broached the idea I was surprised with the response; "You've got a working iPhone 4? Let me call you and we'll check out FaceTime!"  More than one of them mentioned some personal horror stories about friends and colleagues having problems getting their IPhone activated, but four of the people I talked to really were interested in the FaceTime feature.

Well, who am I to pass up an opportunity to play with new technology, so after enabling FaceTime on my phone I scheduled a few calls.  And I must say that after no more than a few minutes, my fears that FaceTime would overwhelm corporate network bandwidth were quickly assuaged.

Let me put it this way; FaceTime appears to be currently at the level of bad 1st generation webcams.

It was, in some cases, pretty much unwatchable, and even in the best case, laggy and disconcerting.  In the best case scenario, the people watching me on the camera talked about the fewest problems with lag and lock ups. I was sitting at my desk, with the phone propped up on the desk, wearing a solid black t-shirt with a light solid color background behind me.  Basically, a static image with minimal changes from frame to frame; my callers reported occasional lagging and random image freezes, but that they were not too bad except for the periods of time when sound and video got out of sync.

From my perspective, however, the experience was execrable in almost every situation.  When talking with callers who were in motion the problems ranged from freezes with disconnects, to nausea inducing motion blur.  Even in the best cases, the images I was receiving were often choppy, with voice and image data out of sync.  Just to take my own Internet connection out of the loop, I tried repeating a few calls using different networks available to me, but the problems with the video transmission were completely repeatable. The only problem that I could not force to happen was the random freeze followed by dropped connection, which only happened twice in a dozen calls.

There is also a certain social awkwardness to video calls. I found that I was most comfortable with the phone sitting on my desk allowing me to control and maintain the angle at which the video was shot (I predict we will soon see gooseneck iPhone 4 docks for the desktop).  When I pointed out how awkward a caller who was hand holding the phone looked it made that particular problem worse, as the caller then looked very self-conscious as they tried to find a good way to hold the phone for the conversation. And one person I talked to even mentioned that if they had known they were going to be on TV this morning they would have shaved.

While FaceTime may be hailed as the first practical implementation of video calling, the reality is that the social conventions of a phone call don't include looking into a camera.  Many behaviors people unconsciously do while on the phone are not those that present them in the best light on video.

Topics: Mobility, Telcos

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27 comments
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  • You have that all wrong: This is an Apple product you're talking about:

    1st generation webcams have finally caught up to [i]the iPhone![/i]
    John Zern
  • Other issues also come to mind....

    One really ugly specter raised its head in a parting comment a much younger colleague made to me on the call; ?Wow?, he said ?I wonder what this will do to sexting??

    Now there's the potential for some broad reaching legal action, especially if "Record your FaceTime" apps start to become available. Though I think that would violate wiretap laws in many states.
    David Chernicoff
  • Not surprising actually

    I mean it's one of those things that looks good in the movies, thanks to Hollywood special effects, and maybe some dedicated techies will make it work. If only they had put one on the iPad, then we could coin the phrase "crotch cam" because that's the view camera would be looking up from as the iPad sits on your lap ;)

    Oh well, on a positive note it's one less thing Apple haters will have to whine about "But it doesn't have a useless front facing camera!"
    oncall
    • RE: FaceTime WasteTime?

      @oncall I have the evo which has a much higher resoluation front facing camera. I am able to use it for Skype video calls on the 3g/4g network which makes it practical when talking to others. Facetime just simply isen't practical in its implementation. The reason is it at best looks like a first gen webcam cause it essentially is a first gen webcam lol. And by restricting it to only wifi, I mean its a phone .... iTS MOBILE!!!
      topgun966
      • I'm glad it's working for you

        @topgun966

        And I am sure it will be very useful for the hearing impaired. But, I'll maintain my doubt until I actually see people using this or someone I actually want to look at on the phone tells me "Hey, you gotta get mobile video conferencing!" I have video conferencing now on all my computers now but I would rather surf the web, check my email or watch TV while on the phone.
        oncall
      • Is the iPhone camera usable for Skype?

        The only reason I would want a video chat camera would be for Skype, everyone I would want to use it with has video Skype. Am I understanding that the camera is only useful with Apple's own FaceTime app between iPhone 4's? The new Skype 2 for iPhone can't use it? Man, I really do not understand tech companies. I mean, they can do astonishing stuff but sometimes they can't even figure out that round pegs fit in round holes.
        ArtInvent
      • RE: FaceTime WasteTime?

        @ArtInvent <br><br>FaceTime is opened to developers so it is very likely that applications like Skype will use FaceTime. Skype is said to be working on incorporating it I think:<br><br><a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19512_7-20007298-233.html" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19512_7-20007298-233.html</a>
        dave95.
      • True, but you really wouldn't want to use it

        while driving, so the wifi only restriction will probally be good enough for now.

        (Imagine that: "good enough")
        John Zern
      • RE: FaceTime WasteTime?

        @topgun966

        Wow, you don't understand cameras and resolution at all. More megapixels do not necessarily mean better images. there are lots of other factors to consider. Do a google search on resolution and smartphones AND also read some recent reviews on the iPhone 4 (yeah, I know they were done by Mac sites) as well as the details on the iPhone 4 camera capabilities on Apple's site.

        it is not a webcam and is way beyond a webcam.

        In addition, Apple was first to implement video cameras with the Mac. The Macbook and the Powerbook before it had built in video cameras. Before that Apple had the iSight video camera many years ago.

        there are issues with the iPHone 4 I would agree on but the camera and its quality AND video phone calls will be big.

        Apple recognizes this and has applied to have their approach made into a standard to insure interoperability between all smartphones.
        juanm105
  • RE: FaceTime WasteTime?

    It's pretty cool. I never had a lag. I think it just depends on the network you are connecting. I was doing facetime with my buddies in new york and I'm here in california. While doing facetime, he was moving and the image was not doing some pixels. the audio is clear as well so, there is really nothing I can say about facetime.
    jologskidoo
  • I couldn't disagree more.

    I have only done one facetime session, myself from Seattle and my friend in Virginia. Both of us were at home, using our home WiFi setup over cable modems. I have never had a smoother video experience, not over iChat, not over Skype. Not one dropped frame, no motion blur. Audio was perfectly in sync.
    I'm trying it with another friend tomorrow who just got the phone, but he is in Seattle. I think my test yesterday was the test to have. The duration of our call was about 15 minutes, and there was not one hiccup or delay in all that time.
    I am running an 802.11n network, and my broadband speed is about 30 MBps down and 10 MBps up. It was more than capable of putting up with any demands. I am sure the application took much much less, and I am surprised your corporate network could not handle it. In my case, the network where I work is so firewalled up none of these video apps ever pass through.
    ebernet
    • RE: FaceTime WasteTime?

      @ebernet

      If you were at home, why not just use your PC webcam? you had to buy an expensive smartphone and pay for cell service and data plan to do this from HOME? Seems like that is the exact antithesis of the purpose of a cell phone. Now try it outside AWAY from home.
      mstrsfty
      • Typical not getting it

        No, he bought a mobile phone that also happens to do video chat. And only a geek would think that sitting in front of a computer or having a hot notebook in your lap to video chat is more relaxed and comfortable than using your phone. I'll bet you sit in front of your computer to make Skype calls, too.
        frgough
  • Doesnt matter how good or bad it is at making video calls, it will fail...

    ...because just as David said, 9 out of 10 times you dont *WANT* the other person to see what you're doing while on the phone! And forget about being in your underwear or whatever (bad as that may be), the underlying reason it will fail is this:

    The *ILLUSION* the person on the other end has that you are giving them your undivided attention is only possible if they can't see the myriad other little multi-tasking things most of us do while we talk on the phone. Ignorance is bliss, and it's far more pleasing to use your imagination to fill in the blanks than to be presented with the blunt reality on the other end.

    Just my $.02
    czill
    • Quit pretending as if facetime is the only way you can

      make a call on an iPhone. It's icing, not cake. For the times when people want it, it's there.
      frgough
  • Doomed from the start

    People don't want to always see to whom they are talking. Video calls have been around since the late 90s and it has limited applications. I adopted it when it was an expensive technology that requires special add-on hardware for the computer and even though today I have high-speed Internet and good camera, I don't use it anymore. It's novelty for the average consumer, but not very practical for everyday use.
    idealab
    • RE: FaceTime WasteTime?

      @idealab

      Of course it won't be used by everyone but Apple as always will create the standard that others will copy (and even maybe improve on). There are many ways that a video call to family and friends will be used and be highly desirable.

      check out Apple's latest TV ad for the feature and then tell me, this isn't going to catch on (individual ijet packs will be next out by Apple, I am sure 8-{)

      http://www.apple.com/iphone/#video-ad
      juanm105
  • Facetime is an idiotic idea.

    Either you already know what the person looks like, or you're never going to meet them anyway.
    peter_erskine@...
    • RE: FaceTime WasteTime?

      @peter_erskine@... Uhh... just because I know who a person looks like on Skype, for example, doesn't mean I'm not gonna want video chat with him or her.
      ZackCDLVI
  • Right, iPad?

    If FaceTime is awkward and a waste of time, then what about bitching about Apple not including a front-facing cam in the iPad? Better yet, when did video chat suddenly become awkward? We been doing this stuff even before Skype.

    The point is, how I see it, is simply quick mobile video chat on the go. So your not restricted to your PC or laptop. I can imagine this stuff will only be done when NEEDED, instead of constantly like people fear. At least Apple and others are giving you the option now for smartphones.

    Two cents.
    ZackCDLVI